May Day, mayday. On the one hand, it is indeed the first of May and on the other, I might just be calling for help. You’ll see what I mean…
I know I may have thrown some of you off with my title, thinking that I’m just going to hand you a list of 40 bullet points about why repetition is bad. Not the case. The concept around America’s “Top 40” (not to be confused with the independent radio program “American Top 40”) is the star today.
Stars. Pop Stars. Most of the latter, highest in mainstream recognition, obtain and maintain standard radio airplay. These are the artists who can move the most product and get the most attention. How does radio fame repay them? Singles are selected to be added into station rotations and suddenly you’re hearing “Single X” at least once an hour and sometimes even on the hour. The idea is that these are (obviously) the songs people want or will want to be hearing over and over again once they’ve been exposed to them.
There’s an inherent flaw to this idea: Restriction and resulting ignorance to other things outside of those pre-designated singles. While I don’t know anyone personally that only listens to Top 40 radio as their source of music awareness, there are certainly some fans who might not be as familiar with an artist’s entire catalog or discography because they haven’t gotten around to purchasing the latest album release yet and Top 40 is their main method of song discovery. (This I have seen before; people that hear “new” songs from artists based on whatever the newest radio single is for the month.)
Now, if a person wants to be connected to pop music in that way, that’s their choice and there’s nothing wrong with it. Radio needs listeners to have a functional existence. What can be so shocking and detrimental to both a listener and artist though, is the fact that whatever image is portrayed and impression is given through Top 40 is what is most likely to be fixed into people’s minds -particularly if the resulting impression is a continuously negative one. People can become uninterested and unwilling to explore beyond that wall in search of anything that can contradict the unfavorable impression. If something comes along that unexpectedly exposes a listener to non-radio accepted material by a radio-ubiquitous artist whom they dislike, (based on their radio given content) then the resulting surprise from hearing a radically different style or sound may cause double the amount of positive acceptance (than that of a fan who liked the artist “from the start,”) purely from the fact that one could feel, what could be considered, a sliver of regret from blindly having their pre-existant notions torn apart.
Just so you know I’m not intent on being completely hypothetical, this “type of person” whom I’ve described with regard to shock and dashed notions, is me. After reading over the most recent blog post from my friend who writes “Computers, Music and More,” I took away one large dose of humility because of a link he had included, which went to a YouTube video of a song by American pop singer Ke$ha. I am not a person who has followed Kesha meticulously from her ‘humble beginnings’ before becoming a mainstream hit. I first heard her via Top 40 radio and was not a fan. I kept on not being a fan through her various singles and live appearances. Probably not unlike a lot of people, my first thoughts whenever she was brought up in conversation were, “Excessively auto-tuned, trashy-looking pop star who wears bright blue lipstick with a non-matching outfit on national TV.”
Exhibit A: The official video for Kesha’s single, “Take It Off.”
The right or wrongness of my dislike aside, I have never wavered in my perception of her as a singer and her attached artist image. Who can necessarily blame me when the majority of that perception is accurate based on what Kesha displays to the public? Yet, the song from my friend’s blog renders my perceptions utterly speechless.
Exhibit B: Kesha’s unreleased song, “Goodbye”
If you’re as surprised as I was, don’t feel bad. (Just read some of the comments left on the video!) The opinions and conclusions we’ve drawn about Kesha can’t be helped because what she displays is all we have to work with. Psychology and the Availability Heuristic Phenomenon are the culprits. The idea is that whatever examples you can think of, those examples are your most likely given opinion on a given scenario. (e.g. People can recall more deaths from car accidents than stomach cancer and therefore assume car accidents happen more frequently, even though stomach cancer fatality is higher.) Keeping this is mind, the availability heuristic is definitely a risk factor to Top 40 radio and can be a direct cause or exacerbating factor behind perpetuating a person’s inaccuracies and subsequent avoidance of an artist, which can leave you missing a lot. Top 40 radio acts as the adversary to self-discovery. I’ll be looking just a bit further into artists I might not like from now on, just so maybe I won’t be proven so wrong next time!
And if you need another example, Cee Lo Green’s Top 40 hit “F–k You” brought his solo career to light for the masses; with a blunt and profane, first and only given impression. Then, find Green on the Twilight Saga: Eclipse OST with “What Part of Forever” and it hardly delivers the same abrasive flavor whatsoever.